Buying toys for your pets is like buying toys for your toddler. You need to watch for dangers in every toy, no matter how harmless it looks to ensure your pet’s safety.
Catnip and honeysuckle-stuffed plushies are among the most common and popular toys for cats, and what dog doesn’t enjoy tearing apart a stuffed squirrel or old slipper? Ferrets like to pretend to hunt down stuffed animals three times their size, and parrots love to have a “lovie” to snuggle with.
All these soft toys seem harmless enough. After all, what can a plush toy do? However, even the safest-looking toy might harbor a risk to your pet’s health and safety. As a responsible pet-owner, it’s your job to make sure your pet’s toys are safe, just as you would check every toy for a small child.
Cats and ferrets like to chase soft toys that dangle on a string which, itself, dangles from a stick. The contraption looks like a fishing rod. These types of toys are great to play with when you’re there controlling the stick, but they are not good for unsupervised play as the pointy ends represent a very real risk to your pets eyes, mouth and body.
Then, there’s the string on that dangly toy. Balls of wool and toy mice with long tails also have long, stringy parts. These run the risk of strangling or choking your pet. Worse, if a string is swallowed, it can cut open your cat’s intestines. This is a medical emergency that represents a real risk your pet’s life and, should it occur, will require a visit to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
Tinsel and fake “icicle” drapey, like those you find on Christmas trees, are also dangerous to your pets. So is the cellophane grass that is sold to line Easter baskets.
Another choking risk comes in the form of small eyes and noses on soft toys. Quite often, these are glued onto the toy, and it takes very little time for Misty or Fluffy to get them off. Sometimes, these pieces are simply lost. Other times, they are swallowed or inhaled. Tiny felt bits are less likely to be an issue than the plastic pieces. The plastic can break apart, leaving sharp edges which can cut tummies.
If toys need faces, safe paints are the best bet. Sturdy embroidery is the next best choice.
Paints and Dyes
If you’ve been paying attention to the news over the past few years, you’ve probably heard about recalls of children’s toys because of lead, cadmium, cobalt, and mercury in the paints used to decorate them. This is actually a larger problem in children’s toys than it pet toys, but you still need to be watchful. If there are painted designs on a dog’s soft-rubber chew-toy, that paint is going to come off and end up in your dog. Choose an unpainted chewy.
The main issue with pet toys and paint will show up when you are shopping for parrot toys. The safest choice is to stick to food-grade dyes for any parrot toy that is painted.
Over the past few years, the companies that make pet toys have started offering un-stuffed plushies for dogs. As a tug-of-war toy, this is perfect. Fido can rip and tear to his heart’s content, and you don’t need to worry about him accidentally swallowing the stuffing.
Stuffing can be made of any of several substances: cotton, kapok, polyester fibres, plastic beads, and so on. Any of these can be risky if they get out of the plush toy. Beads are a choking hazard. The polyester fibres are like the string we already discussed. Cotton and kapok can block your pet’s digestive tract.
Stuffed toys can still be used, of course, but keep a close eye on the seams. Once the seams start to give way, replace the toy.
Pet Safety Starts with You
Keeping your pet safe is very much like keeping a baby safe. Check all new toys as if you were going to give them to a toddler. Could a piece be pulled off and swallowed? Are there any sharp, pointy bits? Does that look like lead or cadmium paint? If so, choose a different toy.
Some toys are fine for supervised play, such as those “fishing pole” cat toys. Put those in a cat-proof cupboard when you aren’t around to watch. Browse the range of dog toys and choose something that suits your dogs personality.
You’re the responsible adult in the house. It’s your job to keep the pets and children safe.